Early learning takes ‘leap forward’

Posted on February 18, 2010 in Child & Family Debates

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TheStar.com – Ontario/parentcentral.ca
February 18, 2010.  Tanya Talaga, QUEEN’S PARK BUREAU

All-day learning for Ontario’s 4- and 5-year-olds is a step closer to reality.

Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky introduced legislation enacting full-day early learning on Wednesday at Queen’s Park.

The $1.5-billion extended day program pairs early-childhood educators with teachers in the classroom. The early-childhood educators will start before regular school hours and begin the program until the teacher arrives for the school day, Dombrowsky said.

Once the school day is over, children can continue with early-childhood education until 6 p.m.

The program is “play-based,” the minister said, noting there will be regular assessments of the children and how they are progressing.

“This also prepares them for a more structured curriculum experience when they get to Grade 1,” she said.

Full-day learning will be implemented across Ontario in stages. Coming this September, as many as 35,000 children in nearly 600 schools are expected to participate in the first phase. The goal is to have it in all schools by 2016.

If passed, school boards can charge and collect fees for before- and after-school programs. Financial help will be available based on family needs.

The education amendments introduced Wednesday go beyond full-day learning for 4- and 5-year-olds.

School boards also will be able to offer before- and after-school programs for older children, 6 to 12. As well, boards have the power to offer programs throughout the year for children 4 to 12, including on professional development days, school breaks and summer holidays.

Early learning experts lauded the introduction of the program.

Charles Pascal, special adviser to Premier Dalton McGuinty on early learning, said the amendments put children on the right track: “To see the essence of high-quality early-learning programming entrenched in these amendments is historic in terms of North American precedence.”

George Brown College’s Jane Bertrand, a professor of early childhood education, said the program is “unbelievable. I am wowed. The teacher and ECE work hand in hand. This is a big leap forward for early childhood educators as a profession.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak objected to the program. “When your credit cards are maxed out and you have no money in the bank, you don’t go out and buy a new car,” he said. “A centrally run, very expensive program like this is not affordable, given our $25 billion deficit.”

Toronto Star

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